Have you ever tried to get close to your dog while they’ve been eating and noticed they growled and bared their teeth? Invite a friend’s dog into your home and your dog refuses to let them play with their toys?
It’s a strange thing. Your dog can be so nice in all other aspects of life, from being a total cuddle bug to nothing but smiles, but all of a sudden they become a little greedy monster.
What’s the cause behind this? It’s a behavior in dogs known as resource guarding, and there are many different things that can cause it. But how do you work the behavior out of your dog, getting them to be nicer when it comes to their things?
From rewarding good behavior with long-lasting dog bones to teaching them that it’s nice to share, here’s all you need to know about resource guarding and how to treat it.
What Is Resource Guarding?
Resource guarding is a natural behavior in dogs. It’s part of the pack mentality. While dogs enjoy being part of a pack, wandering with a cadre of other dogs they can trust, they enjoy having things of their own.
You’ve probably seen this before when giving out treats at the dog park: the dogs don’t just sit down with their treat and eat it right there. Instead, they’ll take their treat and run off to another side of the park, where no other dog can take it from them.
It’s an inner feeling that they have a personal possession and they don’t want it to be taken from them. They want something that is theirs. Part of it is survival, and the other aspect is having things they consider to be their own. It’s no different than you becoming upset if you saw a house guest using your master bathroom or your toothbrush. It’s unsettling and upsetting, and you’d prefer an amount of privacy, secrecy, and ownership.
But while it’s a common behavior among animals, it can come across as unfriendly, especially when inviting new people into your home or taking your dog to the dog park. Suddenly your happy-go-lucky dog is acting aggressive, growling and barking, ready to fight over what they consider to be theirs.
What triggers resource guarding? And how do you limit your dog’s reactivity to said triggers?